Telemedicine allows doctors to examine patients from thousands of miles away

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - As Dr. David McSwain describes the features on the new telemedicine cart at Conway Medical Center, nurses and doctors listen in. Dr. McSwain is a pediatric critical care specialist at MUSC in town to train Conway Medical Center staff on how to use it.  Dr. McSwain is excited about the possibilities he says the machine will bring.

"Trying to evaluate a critically-ill child over the phone is like driving down an interstate with your eyes closed," he says.

The telemedicine cart gives specialists at MUSC greater ability to help critically-ill children in Horry County. Doctors can use the machine from anywhere. The device has a high-definition camera that can zoom in 12 times, and freeze on an image so that it can be examined in detail. There's also a stethoscope. Doctors can control the device from where they are, or staff with the patient can control it on their end.

"This is meant to provide access to care to people who have never had access to that sort of care before in their own community," says McSwain. "It's meant to just expand what we are able to do in a way we've never been able to do before."

Last year, 107 pediatric patients had to be transferred to MUSC from Conway for a higher level of care. Health professionals hope the machine will allow more of them to stay home.

"Some of the patients don't need to come, but because of the difficulties of evaluating a patient over the phone, we can't make that determination," says McSwain.

The pediatric telemedicine program is made possible through a $525,000 Duke Endowment Grant. Four machines are being rolled out at hospitals across the state and CMC plans to go live with it within the next two weeks.

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